mise en abîme , mise en abyme

Stephanagreg

Senior Member
FRANCE FRENCH
Hello there,

Does anyone happen to know if there is n equivament for the critical / literary expression "mise en abîme" (sometimes "abyme")?

I would have thought that the English language had borrowed the expression and used it as such (most often italicised). Could anyone confirm this to me?

A great many thanks.
Warmest regards,
Stephan
 
  • la grive solitaire

    Senior Member
    United States, English
    Bonjour Stephan,

    Mise en abîme" (sometimes "abyme") = story within a story. Par exemple, Le Décaméron de Boccace.
     

    Negg

    Senior Member
    French
    I think they use the french expression in english.
    I saw it like this : mise en abîme or : mise-en-abîme
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    A jam jar with the picture of a little girl eating jam from the jar with the picture of the same little girl eating jam from the jar with the picture,...and so forth.......
    Would that be considered as a mise en abyme ?:)
     

    charlie2

    Senior Member
    LV4-26 said:
    A jam jar with the picture of a little girl eating jam from the jar with the picture of the same little girl eating jam from the jar with the picture,...and so forth.......
    Would that be considered as a mise en abyme ?:)
    Someone gave me a mug with a picture of a sleeping teddy bear. Next to him is ... a mug with the picture of the same teddy bear sleeping, yes, a mug is next to him ... and so on...
    I have been wondering, there must be a term to describe it...
    You don't know how much this your post means to me.:D
     

    Amityville

    Senior Member
    English UK
    The 'nested doll principle' (like Russian dolls, one within another) or in your case, Charlie, 'nested teddy bear principle'. Or recursive teddybears, perhaps.
     

    Aupick

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    To get the full effect of what mise en abyme means, think of two mirrors placed opposite each other. If you look into one of them, you see a reflection of a reflection of a reflection of a... and so on, unto infinity, or to the bottom of the abyss, whichever is closer. Or think of a magazine cover on which a person is holding a copy of that same magazine on which they are depicted holding a copy of that same magazine in which they are depicted holding a copy of that same magazine on which... until you're eyes go buggy and your head spins.

    That's why it's called a mise en abyme, even if the phrase is commonly used to refer to things with only one or two iterations, like André Gide's Les Faux-monnayeurs, which features a character who is writing a novel called Les Faux-monnayeurs, etc.According to a (usually reliable) source, one can say 'mirror text'.

    However in many years of literary studies I've never once heard it used, whereas I have heard 'mise en abyme' used plenty (always spelt with a Y for some reason).
     

    Cath.S.

    Senior Member
    français de France
    The 'nested doll principle' (like Russian dolls, one within another) or in your case, Charlie, 'nested teddy bear principle'. Or recursive teddybears, perhaps.
    On les appelle en français des poupées gigognes, ce terme évocateur peut tout à fait s'employer au sens figuré.
     

    Cathou

    Member
    Francophone, Canada
    Actually, this is one case (of not too many) where the technical French word is more accurate and succinct than any English word or description. Because la mise en abyme is a figure of rhetoric aiming to highlight "l'abîme" of a character/situation/etc. through contrast or comparaison (think of the play within a play in Hamlet, or Sartre's Les jeux sont faits, or even The Picture of Dorian Grey ), the English would have to describe the situation, or might label it a "metaphor" or a parallel structure, which is true but not entirely accurate. It really is meant to highlight some sort of degeneration.

    As for my personal experience, when referring to the figure of rhetoric, I've only ever seen/used abyme.
     

    FJasmine

    Member
    United States / English
    Mise en abîme" (sometimes "abyme") = story within a story. Par exemple, Le Décaméron de Boccace.[/quote]

    In this case, we can also say "frame narrative".
     

    marre-j-inhale

    New Member
    French/English (France/USA)
    In english you can take use the French term, or call it a "Box-inside-a-box," or even in certain cases "intertextuality" (but "intertextuality has an equivalent in French)

    For example "The room in which Lockwood of Bronte's Wuthering Heights, finds himself, is an example of a Box Inside a Box technique used by the author to underline yadda yadda yadda."

    In English and French they both deal with the same idea, like someone else said, just think of A Midsummer Night's Deam (a particular Box-inside-a-box which would in French, be referred to as "Métathéâtral") or Letters written in a novel, etc.

    "La Nuit américaine" is a renowned example of mise en abime because it's a scripted movie of a documentarian who films a movie about filming a movie (mise en abime n.1) where the movie being studied in supposed to have in it a cat that drinks a sip of milk, and then runs away. The crew and director of the movie being "documented" stuggle with a very thin cat who will not drink from the bowl of milk. Another (very fat) cat walks on set and DOES drink the milk. (mise en abime n.2) The second mise en abime is that the REAL director had to find one thin cat that would not drink milk, and one fat cat that would drink milk.

    Sorry if I got the story of "La Nuit américaine" wrong, and that I wrote so much. =P hope it helps anyway.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    In my studies, we always referred to this idea of play within a play in English as Metatheater (noun) with Metheatrical aspects, parts, scenes (as adjective). I didn't come across the term Mise en abîme or mettre en abîme until much later.
     
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    jbdumont

    New Member
    Belgium - French
    Le chapeau de "cime" (^) est tombé dans l'abîme (î).
    Vous en devrez plus jamais regarder ces deux mots au dictionnaire :)
     

    krizty

    Senior Member
    canada, english
    sorry if this is too late, but an English equivalent would be something that is "meta". for instance, metatheatrics (theatre within theatre) or metaliterature (literature within literature) :)
     

    MmeFarrand

    Member
    English- USA
    As "marre-j-inhale" mentioned, the best translation i've come across is meta-théâtral, which is meta-theatrical in english. I use this term relatively interchangably with mise-en-abîme in my french literature class (in french). The only difference is that the english term metatheatrical is more specific- at least in my understanding of mise-en-abîme. Specifically, the metatheatrical occurs when, for example, a playwright talks about another play, within his own play, or even goes so far as to discuss the art of plays within the play itself. If the author spends a considerable amount of time discussing the art of plays, however, then it's also an example of ars poetica. This definition of the metatheatrical, however, is a very strict defintion- but in the event that you're writing a literature paper, you would need to use it as such- and in the event that the text simply has a nesting doll quality, you need to use another word, in english that is. For mise-en-abîme though, it seems to apply to all these kinds of instances.
     

    Wodwo

    Senior Member
    UK English
    In my experience 'mise en abîme' is used simply to describe a representational structure, with no values or implications for character attached. It also seems to me that, as an idea, it is less abstractly, and more precisely and comprehensibly rendered in English by a variation on the term used above (play within a play, story within a story). I haven't come across the catch-all 'box within a box' (and might be puzzled by it if I hadn't read this thread). I suppose you could argue (and I think people have) that the difference of location or focus implied by 'mise en abîme' means that the element in the abîme stands out in relation to the rest. But I don't think it's always used that way - for example not in the French text I'm translating and which brought me to this thread in the first place, where the term is used to describe a film that opens with a narrator introducing the characters in a voiceover, creating a fiction within a fiction.
     

    rubidou

    Member
    German
    All of your commentaries surely do prove helpful ... thanks to everyone.
    But I still have difficulty in figuring out how to define and outline the term "mise en abyme", given that there are indeed other terms indicating similar phenomena: "mise en reflet/série" and "mise en cadre".
    I think a MEA usually involves a recurrence of certain elements on an inferior narrative level, whereas the "frame story" as such does not necessarily have to be repeated ... or am I wrong?
    And I read that a MEA is always based on analogy, not on identity, as is the case with "fréquence". So how would you translate the latter into English?
     

    roumroum

    New Member
    français
    sorry if this is too late, but an English equivalent would be something that is "meta". for instance, metatheatrics (theatre within theatre) or metaliterature (literature within literature) :)

    Exactly, and the word : "embedding" has been used by scholars. Do you think it is relevant too?
     

    rdvark17

    New Member
    English - US
    In the visual arts, this is referred to as a "frame within a frame." A bit cumbersome, and not always revealing of intent.
    When I was trying to explain fractals to my adult Franco-American kids, they immediately replied “mise en abîme!” But I guess that’s not quite right, or not always right. I was surprised to hear for the first time this apparently extremely commonplace expression.
     
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